Chalk Fired: The Pavement Poet

Chalk Fired: The Pavement Poet

Thanks to The Pavement Poet for the second in our series of guest blogs. I’ve been aware of his work for a number of years but what really put him on my radar was the fact that Swindon specifically constructed a PSPO to prevent him perverting their wannabe sanitised dystopia with his dangerous chalks and free thinking. Here’s what he has to say.

“I remember the day i first put chalk to pavement. At the time i wasn’t hoping for more than a few smiles and the cost of getting myself to the next town. By this point i’d been wandering around for a few years and any plans i’d had when i first set out on my journey had long since vanished with the seasons.

From that moment came a lot, of which my first book “The Pavement Poet: Chalk Fired” is the latest byproduct. Reflecting the poetry led, architecturally inspired, chalk based art form that I have made my own over the last few years, I like to think that this book is much like my work on the pavements. More permanent maybe; but from the poetry, to the photography of my poetic interactions in towns & cities across Europe, right through to the occasional tale of happenstance from what has been a nine year long journey – It’s all there.

I remember well all of the places to have passed me by over the last few years. The pavements, the faces, the conversations. Almost as if this book could never have been but for the time I’ve spent wandering about with my chalk. In that much the streets have given me more than I had ever anticipated. Inspiring not just this book, but also helping me to detach from an increasingly maddening world and become more open to the vast patchwork of people, cultures & ways of being which make this life and this world so fascinating.

Not that it hasn’t been difficult. There can at times be a misperception of those who create in the public space. There’s been the good days, the bad days, the days when every anorak and whichever council official they have on speed dial appears to be against public art. But as always these are just moments and for those of us who do, it’s just another reason to come back the next day.”

You can find out more about The Pavement Poet: Chalk Fired by clicking on the following link or by following The Pavement Poet on Facebook:

http://danielmrowland.blogspot.com/2021/03/chalk-fired-available-for-pre-order-now.html

What do we say?

________________

 

What do we say when the chalken pen
Has marked The Way in ways unsaid?
A summer sunrise come to be
For those who choose to go and see.
What do we say when a winter sun
It marks the passing of the fun
Which found us on those summer days
When time and memory went astray?
What do we say to the autumn eye
For those who watch the forest die
Away until a coming spring
Brings warmer days and thankful grins?
What do we say to the spring time gaze
When feeling winter make them age
One more year closer to the end
Where life it rocks and rolls again?

__________________

Protest Nottingham PSPO

Protest Nottingham PSPO

Buskers’ rights groups – led by the Keep Streets Live campaign, along with the MusiciansUnion and Equity – have lodged a formal objection to Nottingham City Council’s draft Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).

The groups say that the proposals will criminalise street performance across almost the entire city centre, regardless of whether any disturbance or nuisance is actually being caused.

Keep Streets Live has proposed an alternative route– a system of busking guidance now successfully adopted by several dozen towns and cities across the UK, including Liverpool, York and Birmingham. But so far we have received nothing from the council other than an offer to monitor the PSPO once it has been put in place. We are disappointed that it seems a decision has already been made, despite objections from both local buskers and national professional bodies.

In response to the draft PSPO, Stephen Brown, Musicians’ Union Midlands regional organiser said:

“The MU has a clearly defined policy agreed by our membership to ensure that busking remains a vibrant, spontaneous and attractive cultural offer. Our approach is inclusive, encourages working with stakeholders in a positive way, but does not hinder local authorities from taking action on genuine nuisance. Cities imposing PSPOs as a solution to what they perceive as busking generated issues clearly misunderstand busking and are using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I’d advise Nottingham City Council to step back from the brink, and work with organisations like the MU and Keep Streets Live to avoid alienating sections of its own community and suppressing well-established cultural liberty and freedoms.”

Tim Clement-Jones, a Lib Dem peer and prominent live music campaigner, said:

“Busking is vital for bringing cities to life and developing local musical talent. In the recent PSPO Statutory Guidance the government made it clear that busking should not be unduly restricted. I urge Nottingham City Council to reconsider these restrictive and unnecessary proposals.”

Keep Streets Live director Chester Bingley added:

“Considering that even the Antisocial Behaviour team has described problems with busking as only occurring ‘occasionally’, a PSPO seems vastly disproportionate and would certainly be open to a legal challenge. We question why these occasional problems cannot be dealt with firstly by simple dialogue, and then if necessary using existing legislation that targets the individuals concerned rather than inflicts collective punishment on all performers.”

The buskers’ groups are working with the Manifesto Club, which has also raised objections to the parts of the Nottingham PSPO that restrict leafleting, charity collection, and begging. In a submission to Nottingham council, the group said that these measures will ‘do great damage to the citys lively culture of political organisations and charitable causes – as well as making it impossible for homeless people to make money in order to eat.’ Manifesto Club response to Nottingham PSPO

The groups are planning a day of action (including music, leafleting, and a petition) to highlight the contents of the PSPO, raise awareness of its impact, and persuade the police and council that a genuine and active consultation should take place.

Keep Streets Live response to Cultural Clampdown/PSPO consultation in Birmingham

Keep Streets Live response to Cultural Clampdown/PSPO consultation in Birmingham

A real threat exists to cultural and civic freedoms on the streets of Birmingham where the City Council have opened a consultation to make it a criminal offence for buskers to use any amplification on key pitches in the city. Please take the time to respond to the online consultation which you can complete by following this link: https://www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/place/the-introduction-of-public-spaces-protection-order/consultation/intro/view

The Keep Streets Live Campaign has already submitted a response to the consultation which we reproduce below. Our response explains in detail why the PSPO is not the right response to the problems in Birmingham and calls on the council to work with the busking community in the city to find a compromise that allows the council to deal with complaints about noise and nuisance on the one hand, but safeguards cultural freedoms and a vibrant and open busking policy on the other. You can feel free to use our response to the consultation as a reference point for your own response:

Keep Streets Live Response to PSPO Consultation 

The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organisation which exists to protect access to public space for informal offerings of art and music and to prevent the encroachment of criminal law upon grassroots culture. We seek to work alongside local authorities wherever possible to build positive relationships that safeguard street culture, and to constructively challenge policies that marginalise street culture.

We strongly oppose the use of a PSPO to place a blanket ban on amplification in the proposed restricted area, and the use of a PSPO to target busking per se. Whilst we recognise that some buskers cause noise issues which need to be dealt with, the use of a blanket ban is a disproportionate response because it penalises many street artists and performers who have not been causing issues and is therefore arbitrary. Any musician who breached the proposed ‘Public Space Protection Order’ would face a potential criminal record and punitive fines. The proposals would marginalise its street artists and musicians and devastate their livelihoods by effectively making it illegal to perform with instruments that incorporate any form of amplification on some of the key busking pitches in the city. This would diminish the informal cultural life of the city of Birmingham and deprive visitors and residents alike of a huge range of musical performances in the social and grassroots cultural hub of the city.

The Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 should not be used to stifle freedom of expression and criminalise musicians. Busking is a social activity, not an antisocial one. It is a tradition that enhances public space and deserves to be wholeheartedly supported and protected by the local authority. They already have robust powers available to tackle the inconsiderate behaviour of a small minority of performers that cause issues. It is already a criminal offence to create a noise nuisance on the streets, and, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the local authority have the power to issue noise abatement notices to anyone creating noise nuisance, including buskers, and to seize instruments.The PSPO powers contained in the the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 were not designed to regulate busking and the government gave assurances in Parliament would not be used against buskers per se and that the powers contained in the new Act were only aimed ‘against the anti-social minority who give street performers a bad name:

“I might illustrate them as being aggressive beggars and drunken louts”(http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/140121-0001.htm#14012175000753)

Birmingham’s current proposals would affect all street musicians, not just the minority who have caused issues. The use of a PSPO prioritises ease of enforcement and administrative convenience over freedom of expression and the grassroots cultural life of the city. It represents a disproportionate response.

Many contemporary street musicians use some amplification to support outdoor musical performances. Some use quiet instruments or music technology which can’t work effectively without amplification. These include keyboards, electric violins, mandolins, guitars as well as loop pedals which are an increasingly common part of contemporary musical performances. Accomplished performances, many of which incorporate some amplification, are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Birmingham each year and are an established part of the grassroots cultural life of the city. The use of amplifiers can actually allow musicians to play and sing more quietly and still be heard just above the hustle and bustle of ambient street noise. This is especially important for vocalists who can face voice damage straining to be heard over the sounds of the street.  It is not difficult to find a volume level which is not intrusive and volume levels can always be adjusted upon request. A ban on amplifiers to be consistent would logically have to extend to wind, percussion and brass instruments, all of which have the potential to be significantly louder than ‘amplified’ sound depending on the context. The issues in Birmingham have been caused not by amplification per se, but by excessive volume on the part of a small minority of individual performers. The local authority should target enforcement action against those performers who have caused a persistent issue with noise nuisance, whether amplified or unamplified, using their existing statutory powers such as the power to issue noise abatement notices and confiscate musical instruments under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The principle that enforcement should be against individuals who have caused specific issues rather than creating an arbitrary criminal offence (i.e. use of an amplifier) is key. The local authority have powers under the new legislation to issue CPNs (Community Protection Notices) to any individual whose behaviour is of a persistent nature and is a)unreasonable and b) having a detrimental effect on those in the community. CPNs could be used by Birmingham as a power of last resort to use against buskers, or other users of public space, who have caused persistent issues. Whilst CPNs still need proper oversight, they are targeted against individuals rather then entire groups, or cultural activities and therefore represent a more proportionate and balanced response to the issue of noise from busking, enabling the local authority to take effective action against the minority of performers who cause issues, rather than requiring them to take action arbitrarily against, for example, someone using an amp in a PSPO area who otherwise is not causing any issues. CPNs could be backed up by a Best Practise Guide for busking published by the council setting out expected behaviour in the city, tailored to Birmingham’s specific cultural context and agreed between the busking community, the Musician’s Union and the business community. Such an approach has worked well in Liverpool and York and has led to a reduction in the number of complaints received about busking. A measured response that targets individuals is less likely to be politically contentious and to cause damage to the city’s reputation. It is also much more likely to be compliant with Article 10 of the Human Rights Act (Freedom of Expression) and therefore less vulnerable to legal challenge. On behalf of the Keep Streets Live Campaign I urge Birmingham City Council to take this approach.